Falkland Islands elected lawmaker MLA Roger Spink in his Tuesday speech before the UN Committee on decolonization called on the Argentine representatives to leave aside colonial and conquering wishes over the Islands and start behaving as a 21st-century member of the world community, respecting democratic rights and living and working in harmony with regional neighbours.
The Falklands' representative likewise told C24 members to cast aside their preconceptions and see for themselves the modern thriving Falkland Islands and its rightful people.
MLA Spink supported his statement with a quick overview of the progress achieved by the Falklands in the last 35 years, internal self government, self sufficient economy reaffirmed by a 2013 self determination referendum overwhelmingly supportive of the Islands as a British Overseas Territory.
MLA Spink recalled how the Islands, since the 19th century, have contributed to the development of eastern Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, including the fact that the first house built in Ushuaia in what was then a simple outpost was assembled in the Falklands.
This neighborly peaceful and constructive attitude despite the tragic events of the 20th century, has continued with the Falklands openly contributing with the ICRC in helping to identify the remains of Argentine service men buried in the Islands, as in the rescue operations of the lost submarine ARA San Juan.
In this spirit MLA Spink underlined the joint efforts to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources in the South West Atlantic Ocean, carried out by Falkland Island and Argentine scientists on understanding fish stocks, vitally important to both countries.
However, MLA Spink said, it is deeply regretful that the actions of the last Kirchner Government taught a new generation of Falkland Islanders not to trust a country of some 45 million people who sought to subjugate and bully our country of just over 3000 people into submission.
Finally MLA Spink also invited countries of the South West Atlantic to make the UN Conservation and Management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks extensive to discrete fish stocks in the high seas. The Falkland Islands Government stands ready to work with all countries in the region to develop a suitable management regime.
The full speech follows:
I am pleased to be representing my country here at the United Nations, to support and endorse the description my colleague has given to you of the modern-day Falklands, to re-confirm that my country is not a colony of the United Kingdom, and to defend my country against the support that some members of this Committee give to the colonial aspirations of Argentina.
The Falkland Islands is internally self-governing and economically self-sufficient, save for the cost of defense.
We are not a colony of the United Kingdom, but an Overseas Territory, that has progressed well beyond colonial status. We have expressed our clear wish, in a free, open and internationally observed referendum in 2013, to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, with HM The Queen as Head of State. This is not an unusual arrangement, but one which many others have followed in their progress from colonial possession to independent nation state.
That is the journey the Falkland Islands is on, and in the last 35 years we have made very considerable progress.
We have a large capital expenditure program to improve our infrastructure wholly funded by the Falkland Islands Government and we annually budget for an operational cash surplus in order to fund further capital expenditure in the future.
Two young Island University students whose roots go back many generations have accompanied us to these meetings and in the great city of New York that boasts that symbol of freedom the Statue of Liberty it would be a positive and constructive move if they were to hear members of this committee supporting our rights to self-determination.
Mr. Chairman, we wholeheartedly agree that colonialism must be eradicated in all its manifestations. That no people should be subjugated against their will, or have their people, their governance or their natural resources under the control of another country, against their wishes, is a fundamental human right. Our constitution reiterates this right. Argentina has argued just as fiercely over the Beagle Channel Dispute as it has over the Falklands- but was proved wrong.
For much of the latter half of the 19th century, the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego was populated by a substantial majority of nationals who were not Argentine citizens, including a number of British subjects. Ushuaia was founded informally by British missionaries, following previous British surveys, long before Argentine nationals or government representatives arrived there on a permanent basis. The British ship HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy, first reached the channel on January 29, 1833, during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego.
The city was originally named by early British missionaries using the native Yámana name for the area. The name Ushuaia first appears in letters and reports of the South American Mission Society in England. The British missionary Waite Hockin Stirling became the first European to live in Ushuaia when he stayed with the Yámana people between 18 January and mid-September 1869. In 1870 more British missionaries arrived to establish a small settlement. The first house constructed in Ushuaia was a pre-assembled 3 room home prepared in the Falkland Islands in 1870 for Reverend Thomas Bridges. One room was for the Bridges family, a second was for a Yámana married couple, while the third served as the chapel. Perhaps The Falklands should make a claim?
The Argentine claim that Britain expelled the “population” of the Falklands in January 1833 is a falsehood, which Argentina has used to mislead the UN ever since the 1960s.
In fact, Britain only told a small, recently arrived, Argentine garrison to go. It comprised 26 soldiers and their 11 women and 8 children. That garrison had only been there just less than three months, and in that time it had mutinied, murdered its commanding officer and terrorized the civilian population. It is a fact that after the mutiny and thinking itself abandoned it had chartered the British schooner Rapid in order to be able to return to Buenos Aires, although that plan was abandoned just a day before it was due to be implemented.
Britain had protested diplomatically just a week after that garrison sailed from Buenos Aires for the Falklands in September 1832. It returned to Buenos Aires in January 1833 and seven of its members were promptly executed by firing squad and three others given lesser punishments for the mutiny and murder of their commander. In January 1833, Britain wanted the handful of civilian settlers in the Falklands to stay and most did. Only four genuine civilian Islanders chose to leave.
The Economic Blockade and bullying of the Falklands by the Argentine Government has caused great concern to the many families particularly for those who have close ties with Chile.
Some disputes have been settled peacefully and respecting self-determination. Following a territorial dispute between Argentina and Chile in early 1902, the Limits Commission met in School No.18, Trevelin on 30 April of that year. The British arbiter was Sir Thomas Holdich. The inhabitants of the area (both the indigenous Mapuche and the Welsh colonists) voted to remain in Argentina. Their views were respected.
The actions of the last Kirchner Government taught a new generation of Falkland Islanders not to trust a country of some 45 million people who sought to subjugate and bully our country of just over 3000 people into submission.
We are however peaceful and constructive neighbors.
There is no doubt the ICRC Humanitarian work to identify the remains of Argentine service men at the cemetery in the Falklands combined with the two visits of the Argentine Families and the tragic loss of the Submarine San Juan (in search for which assets from the Falklands were immediately offered and accepted) meant people on both sides looked past their differences at the human compassion and decency that is present in everyone. The Falkland Islands Government were pleased to have been able to play their part in finally enabling families to identify their loved ones.
We are committed to ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources in the South West Atlantic Ocean and in so doing safeguarding the marine ecosystems in which these resources occur;
The joint work being carried out by Falkland Island and Argentine scientists on understanding fish stocks is vitally important to both countries and recognizes the necessity to collect scientific data in order to understand the marine biodiversity and ecology in the region and to assess the impacts of fisheries on marine species and vulnerable marine ecosystems
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks of 4 December 1995 should also apply to discrete fish stocks in the high seas. The Falkland Islands Government stands ready to work with all countries in the region to develop a suitable management regime.
All countries in the South West Atlantic need to avoid imposing adverse impacts on the marine environment, to preserve biodiversity, to maintain the integrity of marine ecosystems, and to minimize the risk of long-term or irreversible effects of fishing operations. This is common ground benefitting the global environment that we can continue to work together on.
I say now to the Argentine representatives stop behaving like an envious and greedy colonial power wishing to conquer and subjugate the people of the Falkland Islands and start behaving like a 21st century member of the world community respecting democratic rights and living and working in harmony with your neighbors.
I ask the members of the C24 to cast aside their preconceptions and to come and see for themselves the modern thriving Falkland Islands and its rightful people.
MLA Edwards: Falklands are a people and C24 has no mandate to resolve sovereignty issues
Falkland Islands member of the elected Legislative Assembly, MLA Roger Edwards addressed the United Nations Decolonization Committee on Tuesday for the fifth time in the last ten years. In his speech MLA Rogers emphasized on two issues, one that the C24 is not charged with discussing or resolving sovereignty disputes.
The C24 and its mandate on decolonization results are based on free association, integration, independence, and in addition to these three options, the emergence into any other political status, as long as it is freely determined a people.
Secondly and as important despite Argentine objections, the Falklands are a people. MLA Rogers argued that in effect in 186 years of peaceful settlement and development Falkland Islanders have evolved into “a people” with their own traditions, lifestyle and freedoms: freedom and lifestyle that would be the envy of many.
Furthermore contrary to the views of some of this committee, Falkland Islanders do not consider themselves to be part of a colony nor one of an implanted population.
Likewise the Argentine claim of a settlement in the Islands in 1833 was a fleeting experience, a mutinous garrison which killed its commander and remained in the Falklands for less than three months. On their arrival back in Buenos Aires 7 were executed and three others given lesser punishments for mutiny.
MLA Rogers ended his speech once again inviting the chair of C24 and the Committee to visit the Falkland Islands so as to experience for yourself our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy.
Madame Chairman, honorable delegates, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for the opportunity to address this Committee.
The Falkland Islands are an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom supports the wishes of the Falkland Islanders to remain a part of the United Kingdom and to exercise their right to self-determination. The United Kingdom has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands nor about the principle and the right of Falkland Islanders to self-determination as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and in Article one of the two United Nations Covenants on human rights.
The Falkland Islanders desire to retain the status quo was amply demonstrated in the March 2013 referendum when 99.8% of those who voted in a turnout of 92% wanted to remain as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
There can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falkland Islanders so wish and unless they are directly involved in any such dialogue.
Under the United Nations Charter, the United Kingdom, as the administering power, ensures the political, economic and social advancement of Falkland Islanders and encourages the development of self-government. The Falkland Islands Constitution of 1985, and, as amended by the Constitution Order 2008 means the Islands are internally self-governing, making their own laws, raising their own taxes and developing their own natural resources. This has led to the Islands enjoying economic self-sufficiency as they have been since the late 1980’s.
The relationship between the Falkland Islands and the United Kingdom is very much a modern one, based on partnership, shared values and the right of the people to determine their own future.
It is at this stage, Madame Chairman, that I wish to remind this Committee that it is not charged by the Secretary General nor by the General Assembly with discussing or resolving sovereignty disputes nor to advance, or support, claims to the Falkland Islands, or any other territory – any reference to sovereignty is an abuse of this committee’s purpose. I trust, Madame Chairman that you will enforce strict ruling to keep to the agenda and to the mandate of this committee.
The mandate of the C24 is based on the principles that the result of the decolonization process would be:
a. Free association
Or, fourthly, as adopted by declaration in which it is stated that “in addition to these three options, the emergence into any other political status, as long as it is freely determined by a people”.
Britain did not expel an Argentine population from the Falkland Islands in 1833 – or at any other time. Argentina’s repeated claims that this happened are falsehoods intended to undermine the right of self-determination of the current legitimate population.
In 1832, because of the raid by the United States warship ‘Lexington’, the British Government ordered a warship, the ‘Clio’, to visit the Falkland’s.
For the same reason, the Argentine Government sent an interim ‘Commandant’ there – provoking a British diplomatic protest. With him went a tiny garrison – 26 soldiers with their 11 women and 8 children. It landed on the 6th October 1832. That garrison mutinied, murdered their Commandant and terrorized the handful of civilians there.
The Captain of the ‘Clio’ ordered the garrison to leave, but encouraged the tiny civilian population to stay, and most did.
This mutinous garrison left on the 4 January 1833. On their arrival back in Buenos Aires 7 were executed and three others given lesser punishments.
A mutinous garrison only there for less than 3 months cannot be considered a genuine population.
I believe that in 186 years of peaceful settlement and development Falkland Islanders have evolved into “a people” with their own traditions, lifestyle and freedoms: freedom and lifestyle that would be the envy of many.
Contrary to the views of some of this committee, Falkland Islanders do not consider themselves to be part of a colony nor one of an implanted population put there to further Britain’s colonial aspirations but they do regard themselves as a people from more than 60 ethnic background groups living and working peacefully together for the common good.
We can now claim an A to Z of status holders, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, who have settled and integrated peacefully into our Islands and our society. Our population has grown and evolved in much the same way as in our neighboring countries: immigrants who left their native homelands to seek favors and fortune in foreign countries.
Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents have forged a lifestyle for us to enjoy in a beautiful and unique environment, one for which we retain stewardship until, we in turn, pass it on to our children and grandchildren. We have families that can trace their ancestry back to the very earliest settlers, over nine generations of living and working in these Islands.
Our population has grown and developed, over a similar timescale, to that of our closest neighbor, Argentina.
There was an attempt by Argentina in 2008, in the fourth Committee, to remove the right of self-determination in ‘disputed’ territories but this attempt was defeated. The United Nations accepts the Argentine bogus claims that a sovereignty dispute exists between Argentina and our administering power but as stated earlier the United Kingdom has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
Similarly Argentina has argued that we are not ‘a people’ and so the fourth option does not apply to us, but there again, I have made my case very clearly that we have evolved into a people in our own right.
In the Falkland Islands we are continuing to develop our economy and unique society. We are an Island population and as such thrive on challenges. Indeed since 1982 we have grown financially, culturally and with an even greater determination to forge a bright future.
Britain has retained sovereignty over our beautiful Islands since 1765. Britain has never relinquished its sovereignty claim over the Islands and, once again, Falkland Islanders have freely demonstrated their wish to remain British.
The United Kingdom assists us with our foreign affairs and our defense, a defense, I might say, only required because of the 1982 conflict. It is a defense that is maintained at the lowest possible level to deter any future aggressor. Despite this support we receive no economic aid from Britain nor do we pay any taxes or levies to the United Kingdom.
The Republic of Argentina’s claim to these Islands, which it bases on the principle of disruption to its territorial integrity, is without foundation, as the Islands have never legitimately been administered by, or formed part of, the sovereign territory of Argentina. We are even different geologically.
We would be delighted if we could have a normal, friendly relationship with all our neighbors, to freely trade with, work with and discuss things of mutual benefit. Instead we are not recognized nor accepted as a people in our own right.
Indeed, over many years, Argentina has done all it can to damage our economy by passing legislation which will penalize those who participate in the Falklands’ hydrocarbon industry and putting sanctions in place to disrupt our fishing and tourism industry, even going as far as to lobby against quota free and tariff free access to Europe post Brexit.
However, more recently we have seen under the presidency of Macri, for the first time in 37 years, the possible early signs of a new relationship with our neighbors. In September 2016 a joint communiqué, issued by the Argentine and British Governments, gave us hope that some of the sanctions, particularly those pertaining to over flights and fisheries science, imposed by previous administrations, could be lifted.
Since my last attendance at this Committee we have seen two meetings of the South Atlantic Fisheries Committee where Argentine and Falkland Islands scientists have exchanged fisheries data which is so important to the long term preservation of fish stocks in the South West Atlantic.
Falkland Island Government officials have had talks with a South American airline with a view to gaining a second flight from the South American mainland to the Falkland Islands on a weekly basis.
Following on from the assistance given to the International Committee of the Red Cross under the Humanitarian Project Plan, 112 of the 122 unknown Argentine soldiers lying in the Cemetery at Darwin have been identified and the Falkland Islands invited and facilitated two separate visits by family members who wished to come and pray at the gravesides of their lost sons.
Following the tragic loss of the Argentine submarine ‘San Juan’ and the mobilization of search and rescue assets from our Islands a link has been established with the mainland to further enhance search and rescue facilities in the area.
The challenges we face are many. Our approach remains not to react to each and every external pressure but to continue to develop the economy in our own way, and to ensure we are not diverted by outside influences. We are clear that we will concentrate on our goals, on our agenda and not on someone else’s.
Madame Chairman, for more than a decade we have invited the Chair and this Committee to visit our beautiful Islands and to see for themselves the way the people manage and conserve our natural environment but so far no one has taken up that invitation. Madame Chairman I wish to extend that invitation, once again, to both you and the Committee to visit the Falkland Islands so as to experience for yourself our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy.
A little over a month ago at the Pre C24 meeting in Grenada two Members of this Committee stated a visit is impossible because it is not a De-Colonization problem but one of sovereignty – sovereignty is not on the mandate of this committee and therefore a visit is perfectly valid.
Madame Chairman, this is the fifth time that I have addressed this Committee and I do hope that over the years our wishes have been expressed both loudly and clearly. I do realize that some people will only hear what they want to hear while others will only hear if they are prepared to listen but I do hope that on this occasion members of this Committee are prepared to listen and take note.
I will conclude by asking all 29 members of this Committee to ignore the unjust and false claims put forward by Argentina and to remain true to the mandate of this Committee, its aims and objectives as outlined in the Secretary General’s message to the Pacific regional seminar hosted by the people and Government of Grenada during our meetings of May 2018. Furthermore, I ask that the Committee acknowledge the Falkland Islanders right to be recognized as a people and as such their right to self-determination.
Madame Chairman, thank you for allowing me the time to address this Committee during the third International decade for the eradication of Colonialism.
MLA Roger Edwards: There can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falkland Islanders so wish and unless they are directly involved in any such dialogue.